Story Geeks blogger and longtime Star Wars fan Ashley Pauls digs deeper into her favorite franchise with the “Women of Star Wars” blog series, taking a look at the character journeys of the major female characters in Star Wars and examining their impact on pop culture.
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Saving what we love
1. Who is Rose Tico, and what characteristics define her?
Out of all the characters I’ve covered so far in the Women of Star Wars blog series, Rose feels like the most relatable to the average fan’s experience. She isn’t in a position of power like Leia or Padmé. She doesn’t have impressive Force powers like Rey. She isn’t as connected to key players in the Rebellion as Jyn is. She’s joined the Resistance because she’s what I’d call a “stubborn idealist,” and as a “stubborn idealist” myself, I absolutely mean that as a compliment. Rose is determined to see the best in people and in the galaxy at large, but she knows things aren’t perfect. There are still bad people out there who want to do bad things, and she doesn’t ignore that. Instead, she’s willing to fight for what she believes in, and she won’t give up no matter how dismal the odds are.
Even as people are trying to desert the Resistance due to the encroaching threat of the First Order, Rose remains a determined supporter of the cause. She’s a hard worker, and she gets a bit starstruck when meeting big-name heroes in the Resistance, like Finn. Her sweet spirit and selfless love for others actually end up inspiring Finn to fully invest in the Resistance.
2. What are Rose’s biggest hopes? What are her greatest fears?
Rose’s biggest hope is that someday every planet in the galaxy will be safe and free, for all people and creatures. It’s a goal that’s not really attainable, because there will sadly always be corrupt people trying to do things solely for their own benefit. We will never completely wipe out evil, due to the realities of human nature. However, it’s still absolutely worth it to continue fighting against evil, and to keep standing up for what’s right.
Rose’s greatest fear is losing her older sister Paige, and tragically, this happens at the very beginning of “The Last Jedi.” When we meet Rose, Finn finds her quietly crying in a corner, mourning the death of her sister. I wouldn’t have blamed Rose if she’d just hidden away after experiencing such a devastating loss, but it’s a testament to Rose’s strength of character that she immediately signs up for a top secret mission and then risks her life to help the Resistance. She also is not bitter about the death of her sister, even though Paige died while following orders from the Resistance.
3. What is the biggest challenge that Rose faces, and how does she overcome it?
Rose’s biggest challenge is helping Finn with that previously referenced, not-exactly-authorized mission for the Resistance: recruiting the Master Codebreaker on Canto Bight and disabling the First Order’s hyperspace tracking abilities. It’s a big assignment, with the fate of the Resistance quite literally hanging in the balance.
Although this mission ultimately ends in failure (more on that in a minute), I admire Rose for never giving up, and for her ability to problem-solve as the mission goes awry. Rose’s fierce sense of optimism empowers her to adapt to new circumstances; even when she and Finn get arrested, miss out on their opportunity to recruit the real Master Codebreaker, and eventually get captured by the First Order, Rose never gives in to despair. She’s exactly the kind of idealist the Resistance needs if they’re going to survive in the future.
4. What is Rose’s biggest fault and/or moment of failure in the series, and how does she learn from it and grow as a character?
One of the most interesting themes in “The Last Jedi” is the idea that failure is inevitable. At some point, we will all make mistakes, and our plans will fail. Every main character in this movie experiences at least one moment of failure — even our heroes. What makes them still heroes is the fact that they acknowledge their failure and choose to learn from it. Rather than let it defeat them, they use it as motivation to try harder in the future. Poe learns how to become a better leader, Luke sacrifices himself to save the Resistance, and Rey renews her commitment to following the light side of the Force.
It’s not really Rose’s fault that the mission to Canto Bight ultimately failed. She and Finn did everything they could, but in the end they shouldn’t have trusted DJ, and they should have admitted to Poe all the way back on Canto Bight that the mission was a bust. I think learning that DJ betrayed them is a major blow to Rose, because she poured so much of herself into this mission. However, even with the death of her sister and DJ’s betrayal, she doesn’t become cynical. When the Rebels flee to Crait, she still gets in a ship and faces down the First Order. Her sense of determination is one of the things I admire most about her.
5. What about this character portrayed as female stood out? Did she break any ground or does she feel more like a compilation of female character tropes?
Rose’s character is an important milestone for Lucasfilm — she is the first non-white female lead character in a Star Wars movie. Leia and Rey are wonderful characters and great role models, but going forward, it’s also important to make sure that there are performers from other backgrounds in these films. I hope Lucasfilm continues to be mindful of diversity as the Star Wars universe expands. I think they’re doing a good job so far!
I like the balance they’ve struck with Rose’s character. She’s a mechanic but doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotype of that role. Which is important, because it reminds us not to be trapped by stereotypes or assumptions in real life. Rose is a character who feels very deeply — she loved her sister, and she’s got a pretty obvious crush on Finn. Yet those feelings are never portrayed as a weakness. It always bothers me to see “love” and “emotion” presented as weaker traits, because they’re really not. Caring about other people makes us stronger. Rose can be intelligent, hardworking, in love, and brave, all at the same time. Real people have layers, and good characters should have them too.
6. What does this character teach us about women in the real world? Are there lessons we can take from the screen and translate them into real life?
Rose has turned out to be a somewhat controversial character within the Star Wars franchise, which makes me sad, because I really like this character. Unfortunately, the actress who played her — Loan (Kelly Marie) Tran — was in the media spotlight earlier this year after being bullied off of Instagram. Some of that bullying was motivated by sexism and racism.
I don’t believe that fans of a franchise should feel pressured to like every aspect of that franchise. It’s okay to not like a character. It’s okay to wish the story had been presented differently. Yet it breaks my heart to see such anger directed at what is, at the end of the day, a fictional character, especially when that anger spreads to a real person in the real world who doesn’t deserve that hate.
Whether you connected with Rose’s character in “The Last Jedi” or not, she does have a very important lesson to teach us. Some fans didn’t care for one of her final lines in the film: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” But I actually really like it, because it kind of captures the whole point of the Star Wars franchise. Was this theme stated a little too overtly? Maybe. But even so, the message is still a beautiful one.
Hate always leads to the dark side, and if hatred is your motivation for fighting, you’re probably heading down a bad path. We’ve seen the anger that motivated first Anakin’s fall, and then Kylo’s. But if you fight for what’s right because you care about your friends and want to help others, you’re probably doing exactly what you should be. The importance of focusing on love, rather than hate, is a message our world desperately needs right now: in fandom, in politics, and in our culture at large.